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Special Consideration and Dependency Overrides

Overview of Special Considerations (Professional Judgment): On a case-by-case basis and consistent with federal guidelines, the Financial Aid Office may consider a student’s special circumstances to recalculate a student’s expected family contribution (EFC). The Financial Aid Office is expected and required to make reasonable decisions that support the intent of the federal guidelines regarding professional judgment. The Financial Aid Office is held accountable for all professional judgment decisions made, and for fully documenting each decision. The decision of the Financial Aid Office is both discretionary and final; there is no appeal process to the U.S. Department of Education. This policy sets forth guidelines regarding how professional judgment in financial aid will be exercised at West Virginia Northern Community College.

Special Circumstances: The Application for Special Consideration, available from the Financial Aid Office, includes a more complete explanation of special circumstances and the documentation requirements. Exercise of professional judgment is neither limited to nor required for the situations mentioned.

Examples of special circumstances: Below are examples of special circumstances to illustrate the types of circumstances that may merit professional judgment adjustments:

  • Death of the parent or spouse of a student
  • Divorce/legal separation of dependent student’s parents or independent student and spouse
  • Untaxed income has ceased or been reduced (e.g. child support)
  • Parent, spouse or student suffered permanent and total disability
  • Parent(s) or a dependent student or independent student/spouse experienced a significant reduction in annual income due to a job loss or reduction in pay/hours
  • Dependency override

Examples not considered special circumstances: The following are examples of circumstances that do not count as special circumstances:

  • One-time lump-sum payments
  • Personal debt
  • Car or mortgage payments

Requesting a Professional Judgment Review: If a student or prospective student believes he or she has a situation that would qualify as a special circumstance that may lead to a professional judgment, the student or prospective student should pick up an Application for Special Consideration, located in the Financial Aid Office and campus service centers. After reviewing and signing the form, the student should submit the signed form along with all supporting documents listed on the Application for Special Consideration (including verification requirements) to the Financial Aid Office. The financial aid administrator will review your request and will issue a written decision and, if approved, process any changes. In some cases, professional judgment adjustments the FAFSA do not result in significant changes to the EFC, and therefore do not change a student’s financial aid award. After receiving a professional judgment request, the Financial Aid Office will first examine the request to determine whether the requested adjustment, if granted, will impact a student’s financial aid package before going through the formal professional judgment decision process.

Dependency Overrides

Based on the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Education you are a Dependent student if you are under the age of 24 and answered “No” to the dependency questions on the FAFSA. We do recognize that there are special circumstances in which students are not able to obtain parents’ information.

Students that are unable to complete the FAFSA with parental information can request a Dependency Override by contacting the Financial Aid Office.

Students should outline their circumstance on the Application for Special Consideration and include any and all documentation they feel will support their appeal for independent status; for example, court orders of permanent status (not temporary), death certificates and letters from a third party (school counselors, clergy or family physicians) may be appropriate. Students may also be required to submit a copy of their IRS tax return transcript, W2 and a completed Independent Verification Worksheet.

The Financial Aid Office will review the Dependency Override request once all documentation has been received. The student will then be contacted if additional information is needed as well as once the review is completed.

The Financial Aid Office reviews each request for Dependency Override on a case-by-case basis and students are required to complete the request on an annual basis since the override cannot automatically be renewed each year.

The following may constitute an acceptable circumstance for the purpose of a Dependency Override:

  • Abandonment by parents
  • An abusive family environment that threatens the student’s health or safety
  • The student being unable to locate his/her parents

We are unable to take into consideration the following reasons (including, but not limited to):

  • Parent refusal to contribute to the student’s education
  • Parent unwillingness to provide information on the FAFSA
  • Parent unwillingness to provide income verification documentation
  • Parent does not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency
  • Student does not reside with parent(s)